If you venture just off busy Oxford Street you'll be amazed at what can be found. There are great little shops, my favourite fabric store (not that I can sew, but whatever), cafes and neighbourhood restaurants that are all hidden away from the hustle + bustle of grimy Oxford Street. If you keep your eyes open you'll be sure to discover local gems like Pachamama House.
Pachamama House is a Peruvian inspired restaurant (the chef/part owner is Peruvian) that's been nestled just behind Oxford Street since the beginning of the year. The dining room is all polished cement floors with dark wood and warm tones. It's very warm and welcoming and I love the open kitchen where we can catch glimpses of the chefs at work. The large bar is the centerpiece of the room -- diving what could essentially be a cavernous space into two cozy little spaces.
Poor Miss M never gets to order her beloved Pinot Noir when we're together as I always steer her towards the cocktail list. Lucky for me she was tempted by one of our favourite cocktails, the Pisco Sour ($17.00). We're both suitably impressed with the barman's nifty little trick of sticking the straws to the outside of the glass. Tricky!
Our meal kicks off with two different styles of Ceviche (or Cebiche as Pachamama spells it). Both styles that we try are really delicious and it's interesting to see how different they are to each other. Once is made form incredibly fresh raw fish and the other a cooked octopus dish. There are five different ceviche's on offer here - I had no idea this dish was so diverse.
First up is the Classic "Cebiche" ($17.00) that is made with really fresh snapper that has a toothsome bite to it. The snapper is marinated in plenty of zesty lime juice, green chilli, coriander, and comes topped with shards of crucnhy sweet potato chips. Amazing! The Nisei "Cebiche" ($17.00) is a Japanese style dish with tender char grilled octopus with a tart, citrusy yuzu dressing and two shards of super-crispy sesame-like wafer. We're told by the bar manager, Tony, that there is quite a large Japanese population in Peru so this dish is not out of place on a Peruvian inspired menu. It's tasty AND I learned something new.
Although we've asked that the kitchen just send us out few dishes to try (yes I know, how "posh" of us, but less ordering = more time to gossip) I did ask if we could perhaps, pretty please try a serve of the Yuquita frita ($6.00). The innards of these fried cassava chips is similar in texture to a parsnip (though a bit "fluffier'") with a similar flavour. They are nice and crisp on the outer (as all good chips should be) and come with a traditional Huancalna Sauce - a velvety dipping sauce made with white cheese + peppers.
Whilst we're putting in special requests Miss M asks to try the Empanadas ($5.00). These little pockets of crispy pastry come filled with tender braised pork cheek and a Chilean condiment similar to a fresh salsa or pico de gallo . There is also some hard-boiled egg nestled in the pastry that gives a nice soft textural element to each mouthful. We're told to cut the Empanada in half and pile the salsa onto the meaty innards. Good stuff.
The Sticky Duck ($21.00) is one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant (along with the Classic Cebiche) and its presentation reminds me of something served in Vietnamese cooking. A mound of tender, shredded coconut braised duck sits atop a cube of crispy rice and chilli jam. The best way to eat this is to wrap it up in the accompanying betel leaf and pop it straight into your mouth (not all at once like I tried as that's just messy). I loved the combination of the crispy, slightly salty rice cake couple with the smoky tender meat and the sweet chilli jam.
I've never been a big fan of wagyu - preferring the milder flavour of grass-fed beef (I also prefer not to eat grain-fed beef as that falls somewhere within my own very complicated personal set of eating "rules" that bewilder even me sometimes too). Anyway....I now realise that I'm not fond of aged wagyu beef (which is what a lot of wagyu is and to me it tastes like old socks). This all becomes crystal clear to me as I try this mildly flavoured (non-aged) seared Wagyu rump ($18.00) that comes with roasted okra (how YUM is roasted okra!) and Peruvian bbq sauce. I enjoyed this dish, especially the crisp, sightly salty crust around the edge of this tender piece beef. Whilst I'm confusing you let me say how proud of myself I am that I can now eat, and enjoy, rare meat. Three years ago this would've sent me running. Ok, that was a VERY complicated thought process - but to summarise, the seared Wagyu rump was pretty darn tasty and in no way tasted like old socks.
My thoughts about the Mertuza Negra ($27.00) - Chilean sea bass with panca sauce - are much less convoluted. The fish was wonderful with a nice milk flavour (not too "seafoody" if you know what I mean). The fish was very tender and it flaked apart at the mere hint that the fork was coming towards it. I loved the tile of crispy skin and the tender roasted scallop.
If there's anything better than Tequila then it has GOT to be Tequila Sorbet ($12.00). The sorbet is refreshingly sour and not too alcoholic in its taste. The sweet orange cream nicely counterbalances the sour sorbet and the sweet baked meringues and caramel popcorn add a nice crunchy element to every mouthful. Bit bummed I had to share this one to be honest.
Our second dessert is the Picarones ($12.00) or sweet potato doughnuts with spiced syrup. I saw the chef making these and it was fun to see the thin strands of dough flung about (in a professional way of course) like ribbon. If I tried to manipulate dough like that I bet you $50 it'd be on the floor and all over my cloths within 10 seconds. The donuts are fluffy, not quite as light as a ye olde Yankee doughnut, but with a much nicer, naturally sweet flavour and the syrup has an earthiness too it, a little like molasses.
Miss M and both had a great time at Pachamama House. I'm always a BIG fan of share plates so this entire menu suited me down to a tea. The Peruvian flavour to the menu was lots of fun and it's nice to see a restaurant doing something a bit different. The staff we're incredibly friendly and the restaurant felt warm & inviting. We're already planning our return visit...
Pachamama House is at 2/200 Golburn Street, Surry Hills (right opposite the big Surry Hills police station and behind Oxford Square shopping complex). Phone them on 9261 879.